Perfect Storm – What Storm?

I wrote about the dire predictions of the healthcare IT talent shortage just a short nine months ago. My – how things have changed. And I do mean changed! You know the story. America was about to see huge chunks of its human capital wiped out by 72M baby boomers retiring at the rate of 16K people a day for years.

Hey – that’s a lot of boomers!

I’m only guessing those metrics have changed and changed dramatically over the course of the past few months. We are hearing from candidates (like all or most of Americans) that are making drastic changes to the way they spend, save and yes – look at retirement given what has transpired in our economy, cities, neighborhoods and 401K accounts. In some cases, and depending on the age and other financial details from some candidates, retirement in the near term is completely out of the question.

However, there IS a silver lining here if you look hard enough. Let me provide some positive upside in all of this craziness:

Healthcare was one of the very few industries that added jobs in 2008 – to the tune of over 300,000 new jobs! That’s huge!
HCIT will get a big boost by the news of the economic stimulus bill that passed today!
EMR may finally get major traction across the healthcare sector as a result of the new stimulus package.
Many new jobs will be created to fill the demand in HCIT on the vendor side and in the CIO’s shop.
Like it or not – this new bill will continue to move the needle on healthcare spending as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product here in the US. Good and bad – right?
We have the potential to create newer and better EMR and other technologies as private equity and venture capital companies invest more in the healthcare IT space.
If you are reading this blog – your services will probably be in high demand for as long as you want to stay in the workforce.
I know the economy is in the tank and people across America are hurting and I do not have my head in the sand – promise. I just try hard to always look for the silver lining. I do remain bullish about healthcare IT!

Now… did someone mention a storm?

Please Don’t Wear a “Members Only” Jacket to an Interview…EVER!
Posted on: 2.15.2009 7:44:57 PM Posted by Tim Tolan

A few months ago, as I was conducting a search for a “C” level executive for a very well known healthcare organization. Let’s just say it’s a marquis name OK? The initial interviews were done by phone and then followed up with either a video interview or an in-person interview with each candidate and myself – depending on scheduling. This is done for a variety of reasons including to really give the search consultant a better feel for each candidate being considered. Clearly this was a very prestigious client I was working for. One might assume that any candidate competing for this position with this institution would naturally put his or her best foot forward. Well…maybe not:-) Are you ready for this? Here we go…

I scheduled the in-person interview over breakfast (my partner in crime Gwen Darling touched on this subject last year in her blog) to see the other side of this star candidate. Breaking bread with a candidate can tell me a lot! He was prompt and on time when he arrived. However, Mr. GQ decided to wear a Members Only jacket to the interview so he could display his knowledge of “dress for success”. What? A Members Only jacket? I wanted to say to him – “are you kidding me” What were you thinking? Or maybe, ‘How’s that working for you”?

The sad part is that he had great skills and matched most of the job specifications to a T. Here’s the problem: He made the choice to dress casually for a very important interview for a very well known healthcare organization and – a great job. His business acumen led me to believe that he did not give much thought to what he should wear. C’mon! His decision making on what to wear really came into question here. I coached him about his attire and then, like Simon on American Idol – I had to let him know that he would not be going to the next round. It was painful – but it was the right call.

I always recommend to all of my candidates to dress appropriately when going on a face-to face interview. Suit up…Period. Usually a dark or grey suit – they never go out of style. It’s always safe, it’s always smart and it just makes good business sense. Although we, as a country are still in somewhat of a “business casual dress” mode in many work environments, don’t take that chance when you are interviewing for a very high level “C-level” position – with the potential employer OR the search consultant.

Dumb move – just plain dumb! When in doubt – suit up!

Is Your IT Staff Shrinking?

Healthcare IT organizations are suddenly becoming flat – more than they were only a few quarters ago. As a result, some of us find ourselves asking our staff to carry the additional workload due to layoffs and hiring freezes. When a team member leaves the organization and budget mandates prevent us from replacing their position – we have to ask the remaining members of the team to take on more and more responsibility. Some IT leaders I have spoken to have stated that they and their staff are working longer hours on more tasks with 10% – 20% less (or more) manpower! Ouch!

The internal and external Service Level Agreements we have to deliver do not always automatically adjust when the staff levels suddenly decline. So what does that mean? It means you are required to do the same amount of work with less horsepower. Sometimes this can be a very good thing as this sea change we are all experiencing forces us to make it work and the hiring manager gets the chance to watch the cream to rise to the top. It’s time to step up, do more and get the job done. Sounds like a good plan – but how do we keep the team motivated to do their job PLUS an entire list of other things – once done by former employees? What you don’t want is to do is have the staff “burn out” and leave the organization – only to make the situation worse. Not a good plan.

I recommend that you change the way you communicate with your team. I’m not talking style here. I am suggesting that you find ways to spend MORE time with your team during these challenging times. Make it real! Meet more frequently with your team and make time to listen to each member of the team. Give them a chance to talk openly with the organizational leadership. If you support remote locations with remote employees – hit the road more often and visit the remote members of your staff. It matters.

Lead from the front…

By that I mean demonstrate that you are also being asked to do more. Make sure they know that it will take a team effort to get through this difficult period and everyone must do their part. Finally, find ways to do team oriented events that make your team feel liked they are appreciated. It could be starting a regular schedule of events that include attending a ball game, a dinner, a cookout, a movie or some other venue where everyone has a chance to let their hair down and relax. Not everyone likes to juggle more work into their schedule – so let them have some fun! This is a time where we have to do more – at least for the foreseeable future. Things will eventually get back to some sense of normalcy. No one knows exactly when that will happen.

Until then, this is a time where leaders need to lead. Embrace your team and you can step up everyone’s level of play.